Builders

"Never thought of it that way."

My words in reaction to a book read in college about architecture. Its point: Architects build with light, air, and space.

To me, an architect was a developer-engineer - with an aptitude for drawing. Brick and mortar, glass and steel, a big piece of ground - and someone with a lot of money to pay for it all - were the stuff of architects.

The better ones, of course, are practical artists orchestrating an intricate creation that affects hundreds, thousands, even millions of individuals, while seeking communion with structures reaching back through the centuries.

In today's section (our cover story, right, and page 18) two leading architects - Richard Rogers of England and Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands (winner of the Pritzker Architectural Prize) - share their visions of urban "people spaces" and how to build them.

"The city is man's greatest artifact. It has function and art within it," says Lord Rogers.

Serendipitously, I had the opportunity to meet two young men keenly interested in designing and building as well, only their construct resides on the Internet.

Second generation "cyberarchitects" Michael Lin and Paul Yiu are both from San Francisco. They set out to build a cybercommunity where people can meet and freely swap things, www.switchouse.com. The site works like a public square, ironically for this newest of technologies, on the ancient practice of barter. Its ethos and logic can be summed up as: "Trust me. I trust you."

Independent of time and space, the architecture of their Web site allows one person, or 1 million, to state what they have to trade, and what they'd like to trade it for.

In architecture, be it brick or Web site, the foundation is people.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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